Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Charles Darwin’s Slipper

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Young Charles Darwin

Young Charles Darwin went on an expedition. Along the mountain path, he saw a lot of colorful penguins coming down from the mountain. He looked carefully and saw that these are a kind of mountain flower. From Chile along Argentina to the peaks of the Andes and down to Patagonia, Charles Darwin first discovered these beautiful flowers when he made his first expedition to South America (Voyage of the Beagle, 1831-1836). That’s why this flower is named ‘Darwin’s Slipper Flower’ (Darwin’s Slipper Flower).

Charles Darwin was a British biologist. He was the first to give the concept of evolution. The second voyage of HMS Beagle was conducted under the command of Captain Robert Fitzroy. Young Charles Darwin took part in this journey as a naturalist. Beginning on December 27, 1831, the voyage lasted nearly five years, and Darwin spent nearly all of it collecting geological and natural history at Danga. It was on this journey that he laid the foundations of evolutionism. Darwin wrote a book called ‘The Voyage of the Beagle’ describing the journey and experience. The publication of Beagle’s travelogue made him a popular writer.

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First, this species was named Calceolaria darwinii in honor of Charles Darwin. Later the name was gradually suppressed and re-named Calceolaria uniflora (Calceolaria uniflora). It was this name that later became permanent. Although their scientific name is Calceolaria uniflora, they are better known by their common name or English name ‘Darwin’s Slipper Flower’. This plant is also called the Happy Alien plant (The Happy Alien plant), it looks like an alien. To some, it seemed like a row of red-and-yellow penguins marching down a mountain path. Calceolaria (Calceolaria) All species of plants are called sleeper flowers.

This tree is found in the Tierra del Fuego region of South America. A strange type of evergreen tree. Perennial or perennial plant. The genus name Calceolaria means little shoe—reminiscent of the slipper-shaped flower. This flower is quite spectacular. Calceolaria uniflora is quite different from other species of this genus. This species produces red and yellow flowers that look almost alien. It is accompanied by a bright white tray-like part on their lower lip. Does this white part have any specialty or role for their survival?

Darwin’s slipper flower is a winter-hardy plant. They like to survive in the cold. Calceolaria uniflora is a cold-climate mountain species. They are found near the South Pole. Water drainage system is good in hilly areas. They cannot live in waterlogged areas. Their common habitat is the seashore, river sand banks or rocky hills or mountain tops. The plants come from the tip of South America which is not far from Antarctica. The temperature is quite low there throughout the year. It is a complete plant. Produces flowers, fruits, seeds.

Their roots are not very deep like other mountain plants. The spreading roots cling to the soil very tightly. Plants do not grow more than 4-5 inches from the ground. The flowers are about two inches long. This tree blooms throughout the summer. The tongue-shaped green leaves are arranged like rose petals. A long thin stalk emerges from inside it. The flowers hang from the stem. The flowers are usually red-yellow in color. Along with this, there is a white colored tray near the neck of the flowers. At a glance, one might think of an alien waiter or a nut seller with a tray.

This tree can grow well even in small pots. This plant needs good drainage system. Grows well in sandy soils, especially soils that are half loam and half sand. Like other hill plants, they have a shallow root system and care should always be taken to ensure that the soil in the pot does not dry out. They love sunlight but it is best to keep them away from strong midday light.

The pollination method of Darwin’s slipper flower is very unique. Almost all plants in this genus are pollinated by bees. They are usually called Oil Bees. Most of the flowers in this genus have petals. This hair secretes an oil that the female bees love to eat. This oil causes bees to rush to flowers and pollinate them. It is difficult to find this oil-collecting bee to pollinate the flowers of Calceolaria uniflora, which grows much higher in the mountains. Not many insects can survive that high, in such extreme cold and harsh weather. Who does the work of pollination of these mountain flowers grown on the top of the high mountains? In the absence of bees or insects, this flower has to rely on bird pollination. A small bird pollinates this flower. When we think of bird pollination, we think of hummingbirds or honey-eaters. There is another type of small bird called Seed-snipe which roams in these hilly areas. These little birds survive by eating flowers and leaves. They pollinate the flowers of this species. They spend a large part of their time in the mountains searching for their food.

The researchers observed that Darwin’s sleeper plants growing around the bird’s habitats suffered more flower damage. Especially in the white band-like part that hangs down from the side of their lower lip. In fact most of the time this white part is eaten entirely by the seed-snipes. When it is pollination time, these seed-snipes regularly hover around these plants and eat the white part near the flower mouth. When these seed-snipes peck at the white part of the flower, the seed-snipe strikes the anther and corolla of the flower with its head. In this, pollen molecules are spread over the bird’s head. At the same time, the pollen falls on the uterus or the pollen attached to the bird’s head sticks to the uterus. This is how Darwin’s slipper flowers are pollinated.

The question remains in the minds of scientists, why do birds eat only this white part of the flower? What do they get into it? Researchers have tested in the laboratory that this white part is very high in sugar. From here, seed-snipes can easily obtain the sugar-rich sweet food they may need to survive in mountainous areas. Nature preserves its creations through strange laws. We don’t realize how indebted we are to nature until we observe it closely.

Scarborough, Canada

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